Memorials. Friends need them
FRIDAY, January 29 – Two emails from abroad: one of them came in yesterday, but I had deliberately ignored it. No energy. Today I received a similar message, thus, forcing me to ponder them. Permission for a memorial service: one in Italy, the other in America. I go all cold at the very thought, even though the requests are full of warmth and love.
J explains that he wants to organize a concert in Italy. He and Jennifer met a few years back in a castle where she regularly spent the weekend. It was a dilapidated country house near Bologna, full of books, with a vineyard and interesting guests: the ideal getaway from her life in London, with husband, children and the hustle & bustle of everyday life.
J is a professional violinist who lives in London with his partner A. He and Jenn had become the best of friends and last summer they had even gone to visit his parents in Portugal. As it happened, just last weekend the boys and I had watched the jerky images of Jenn taken there with my flip camera. These are the last moving images of her, lasting only a few seconds, still her voice sounds so close-by. J’s idea is to organize a concert, plant a tree on the estate, and entice as many of their mutual friends as possible to come to Italy for the occasion. He wants to know whether I’ll be there with the boys.
The other request, which came in this morning, is also an invitation, from Swarthmore College. Will the boys and I be attending the unveiling of a bench on campus in memory of Jennifer? The email was from Jenn’s college friend B. Their class reunion, which takes place every five years, will be held this coming June, twenty years after their graduation. Jenn had already been making tentative plans to attend. A stab of pain shot through my body at the thought that she would indeed be there, although not physically. Instead, in the shape of a bench in the park with her name on it, and a favorite motto or saying.
Yes, of course, I reply and I’d be pleased to be involved. I can’t say yet whether we will be physically present, but I’ll do my best. I didn’t tell J and B that their requests set off an enormous crying fit or that I was pained by the definitive nature of their initiatives, nor that I could only see them as another burial. They seem the fulfillment of a memory of something that no longer exists, but that once was. History.
At the same time, I do realize how precious these initiatives are and how very sincere. In the long run, they are more valuable than the stab I feel in my heart right now. We can’t yet say whether we will actually be coming . The boys have school, of course, but it’s good to know that friends from Jennifer’s past want to show us how greatly they were influenced by her. History doesn’t focus only on the mistakes that have been made, but also or perhaps primarily on what was beautiful. And what will always be beautiful.